To read the first blog of this series:” I’m hearing chatter about why a professional musician would even put themselves in such a situation. For the many who haven’t seen it (and I guess that includes me, as I’ve been too chicken to watch) – here’s what happened: I was invited to compete on “America’s Got Talent,” played James Brown “I Feel Good” and was buzzed (rejected) with lightning speed.
Why would I put myself in that position?
Well … of course there are many reasons for it, “Wanting to experience…” being high on the list, and “Hoping to win…” NOT being among them.
Doing things like this is part of my job: I’m committed to becoming a better, deeper, more authentic composer, performer and teacher. That’s my bottom line. Sometimes that means making huge ‘blunders’ or simply putting myself in situations where my ego is at huge risk. Sometimes it means going through something awkwardly so that I can guide others with more insight. I don’t think there’s any way to do that ‘carefully.’
Is it painful sometimes? YES! Am I going to stop doing it? No.
I’m not in this – the life of an artist – to be liked or to be well-thought of. I mean, it’s wonderful when I am — but when I’m worried about that (and I do get obsessively worried about it at times) I can’t do my work at the depth I need to.
I need to experience the things I do – to find the deepest truth and connection I can and put that into my work the best I can. If that means I experience complete failure, scathing reviews, and utter rejection — well, that comes with the territory. Am I embarrassed or hurt by it sometimes? ABSOLUTELY! Am I going to stop? No.
Experience is essential. I don’t always get to choose how that experience will pan out: Was it incredible to stand in front of thousands of people, singing my own music, backed by orchestra when I filmed my DVD “Invention & Alchemy”? YES! Was it incredible to do something I’m not particularly good at in front of judges who didn’t like it, and honestly told me so on AGT? YES!
These are both incredible, rich experiences that are open to me because I’m a performer. Was it a deeper, richer experience to get a Grammy Nomination than to get rejected on AGT? No! They’re both incredibly rich. And … I’m sorry to admit … they’re both painful in their own way.
But why would I only want some of these experiences and not the others? How can I help students reeling from rejection if I haven’t experienced it myself? How can I connect with audiences who have at some time experienced humiliation themselves if I’m not willing to put myself there, too, as an artist?
The experiences that make us better performers and artists are not always the same ones as those that give us accolades, or make us appear successful in the public eye. What illuminates our lives and our work isn’t always – maybe isn’t ever — the glory. And we need that illumination to deeply express ourselves as artists.
So first and foremost – AGT was a hugely rich experience, and now that it’s aired and I can write about it, I’ll try to paint as much as I can for you of how “America’s Got Talent” saved my life and why I would do it – and many other things you might not think I should – again … and again.
Pearls before Swine! ! ! Ok now that I’ve got that out of the way. Short of lighting your farts and trashing your harp a la Jimi Hendrix there was no way the 3 monkeys on the buzzes were gonna let you way with coming on like the seasoned pro that you are. I haven’t seen the footage yet, but I find the whole thing bizarre and amusing. I wish however, that you had been in it to win. The panel likes to be surprised not shocked, If you had come out set up the stereotype of the fey harpist at the big harp just long enough to subvert it with hot iconoclastic rock chick, you would have had them eating out of your hand. But really, whatever will you think up next!
Funny you should mention that, Richard. That WAS kind of the strategy (no, not the lighting of … er … what you said, or trashing the harp) but setting up the stereotype and then ‘slowly’ (over 20 seconds) breaking it. And I really WAS trying to win! Honest! But … my next few blogs will tell more, so read on (well, as soon as I put them on line). And thanks for writing!
David – thanks! I’ll talk a little more about those first ten seconds in the upcoming blogs and I love your analogy to test driving a Ferrari. It made me laugh because, when I played with the Orlando Philharmonic – they drove me onto stage in a yellow Ferrari convertible. Wait … were you there?? Wish I could put a photo here!
Thank you so much for your blogging about this experiance. I look forward to reading more about your thoughts. What did you say to the judges when they buzzed you. All they did was show you giveing them a look like “really?!?!?” I think you should come back next year and play Nightingale get their attention with the more gentile harp music of the stereo types then do what Richard said after they pass you threw. Play something standard and soft then totally jam out on it and turn it into the blues. They are uneducated about the harp all they know is pop singers and comedians. Let’s teach them. In all the years I watched this show I think there has only been 1 or 2 harpist play and they always do the stereo type. Please do it again. For all of us harpists that are inspired to be a visionary like you. For all of us that try to break the mold whether it is Latin, jazz, or hard rock we need you to pave the road for us. Please don’t be discouraged experience this again- live it…..For us!
Thanks so much, Marcella. I’ll continue blogging about this — the ones I’ll post today and tomorrow tell about what happened leading up to the contest and what happened at the moment of judgment – so stay tuned!
Whenever we put ourselves forward for judging, the results have so little to do with what we do, much more with who/how the judges are at that moment in time. America’s Got Obsession with Judging (as you have been working out in that part of the heaven story). This has so little to do with performance, with art, with authenticity, with love.
A nice harp contrast this weekend: young Charles Overton on Prairie Home Companion playing both Claire de Lune and Take Five. All about the music, no comparisons involved or invited.
I agree, Carol! And kudos to Charles Overton!
In one of the upcoming blogs I talk about authenticity, and an unexpected display of it on AGT, which gave huge perspective to my own experience.
As someone who’s actually taken part in the development of the “…Waiting Room for Heaven” musical, you can imagine what an incredible opportunity it was for me to experience it first-hand and why I didn’t want to lose that opportunity, regardless of anything the judges might say.
Great to hear from you!